Friend: “Wow there’s this epic computer game I’ve heard about, it’s based in a world with no boundaries going on forever across different lands, and you can dig deep and explore endlessly underground, collect resources and build an amazing life for yourself, it’s so damn cool!’
Me: ‘Oh yea Minecraft, I’ve been playing it for the past few years’
Friend: ‘no way how are you finding it, what have your created??’
Me: ‘Well, I built this really nice little wooden house on the edge of a mountain and I pretty much hang out in and around it all day. I’ve toyed with going further afield and underground, but I’ve heard there’s some pretty scary shit out there”
I’m a bit of a gamer. I find the way that people play computer games is often a reflection of how they approach their own life. Let me explain.
In survival mode in Minecraft the player has to venture out into its environment to explore and collect resources in order to build and create new and better items for themselves.
In this game the the further you venture, far and wide, and particularly digging deep underground into dark monster-infested mines, through lava filled caverns, the more likely to are to find ‘the gold’: precious gems and minerals to create a better armory for yourself, stronger tools to build the life you want, and a better safer house to protect you from monsters that lurk in the night when you live in the world above.
The multi layered world of possibilities and exploration in Minecraft is mind-blowing… and completely wasted on me.
First thing that happens is I chop down some trees. I find a very high precipice away from it all with a very good view and as far away from any danger as possible, then with the few immediate resources I have managed to find I build myself a little wooden house with a look out point.
Every afternoon before the sun sets I run back to my little house with a few bits of collected wood, make sure all the lights are off and make myself as small a possible while the nocturnal monsters come out. I watch the horizon until sunrise before I go out and chop up some more wood for the bare essentials necessary for the next day.
How often do we approach life the way I approach playing Minecraft?
Accepting a life without abundance in favour of feeling safe, foregoing the wealth of innate knowledge held beneath our immediate consciousness or even ignoring its existence because it’s just too terrifying what you might uncover below.
“Damn… I might find a zombie down there. It could eat me. That would suxorz’, or the less obvious, but just as paralysing problem, of ‘Damn, I might find a mineral that creates an amour, or even a sword, then I really will have a reason to go out into the world and forge something great for myself. I like my little wooden house, leave me alone”.
How easy is it for an onlooker to your life to say, for You to say to yourself ‘go out! go into the world, explore, ask, and build. Go on! Do it!’, ‘just go after that job’, ‘just pursue that guy’, ‘go on, ask for that promotion’, ‘the world is your oyster, why not, what’s the worst that could happen?’.
And so you stand at the door of your little wooden house both egging yourself on, and simultaneously berating yourself for not taking the next step. Of course you could venture out across the plains and through dark forests to collect resources that you know are there, but you look at the sky and see it’s heading toward twilight, and you look down at your hands and feel entirely unequipped to deal with the dangers you perceive are out to get you.
Let’s face it, you’re scared shitless.
This is often where happy-clappy positive-thinking self help resources fall down.
They choose to ignore the habitual and paralysing nature of thoughts. In this example:
“How much uncertainty just beyond!”
“So much could go wrong!”
“I’m not the adventurous sort!”
“Where do I even start?!”
Thoughts can persist artfully and tirelessly, finding illegitimacy in even your best laid plans.
Imagine a rockwall as your intentions and your desire is to reach top. You need that wall to remain solid, intact, so you can and have a strong grip upon it and start navigation upward to your destination. Thoughts that amount to “I’m incapable’, ‘I’m unworthy’, ‘I’m guilty’ are like a waterfall gushing over the top. Slowly the surface of that rockwall becomes slippery to the touch and you can’t get a strong hold to move forward, upward. It blocks your line of focus so you can no longer see your destination for water. Slowly, over a long period of time, the water wears away at the rock face so there is no more intention or destination in existence and you’re standing where you were wondering what happened. And then you die.
Ok you don’t die. But it’s all pretty depressing.
So what are you told to do traditionally? Well, forcibly deny your actual thoughts and replace them with thoughts of “I’m brave”, “I’m worthy”, “I’m deserving”, of course! It’s that simple!
Really? It’s like looking at that rock face, with its waterfall gushing over it and saying “you know what, no. That is not a waterfall, it’s a flowerfall… ahhh look at them flow!”, and so you start climbing. Imagine someone at the bottom shouting up at you “dude… are you ok?” as you struggle and gargling, exhausted and confused edging your way upward: “No, no… all good. Flowerfalls aren’t tiring [mouthful of water]… Jeez, what’s up with this?”.
Well, just because you tell yourself it’s a flowerfall, it’s not. It’s a waterfall.
Some people can gather enough strength together to tackle their ‘rockwall’ in this manner, but for the most part it just doesn’t work. You feel good for having done something, but in terms of helping you live the life you desire, you’re no better off than before, and probably pretty jaded with the whole thing.
Your thoughts, both “good” and “bad”, exist for a reason.
They may not objectively be an accurate reflection of reality, but they have validity and they are trying to tell you something. When you force yourself to replace your actual thoughts with artificial ones, you are creating a great conflict in your internal psyche. As with any sense of tension and opposition in a system, pressure points, bottlenecks, and heat are generated. And so you feel pain. Not the sort of pain where you tear a muscle and it then builds better a few days later, the kind of pain that can be damaging. It tells that your natural way of thinking is “wrong”, something to be feared, something that should make you feel ashamed. With that kind of subtext, of course you won’t examine thoughts any further, and so your circumstances remain the same.
Your thoughts hold the answers to removing the invisible bars holding you on the threshold of your own life.
Much like all the precious gold and minerals that are sitting right there underneath that humble wooden house I built for myself in Minecraft, when bravely examined, they are ready to be harnessed and cultivated into real personalised tools that will enable you to make the changes necessary to live abundantly.
So let’s rewind to me on the verge of exiting my comfy wooden house in Minecraft.
What are some of the thoughts going through my head as I stand at the door hesitating to venture out? What are some of the more ‘readily available’ beliefs I might have that are holding me back from shaping the world I truly want in the game?
If I dig deeper into this and ask myself why? Why do I believe I’m not skilled enough? Why don’t I think I can cope with shock/death/failure/the depths. Why do I think I am the kind of person who wants an easy life?
It will probably come back to an array of deeply entrenched beliefs about not having enough worth, not being the kind of person who is capable, not being good or deserving enough to achieve the things I want.
So people play computer games the way they approach life because their beliefs don’t exist in virtual reality… they exist in your actual reality.
The beliefs you hold shape the world you live in.
That’s pretty important so I’ll say it again. The beliefs you hold shape the world you live in.
Your beliefs inform every emotion you feel, every choice you make, every action you take.
So now you’re probably thinking, “Well that sucks. I believe what I believe, that’s who I am, it’s what I do. I can’t help that I think the way I think about things. Thanks for that really unhelpful demonstration of Fact”.
Ok fine, let’s go back in time. Once upon a time, you believed in Santa Claus. As in, you actually really believed that a fat man with a white beard floated magically through the sky on a sleigh filled with presents pulled by reindeer from the north pole. So much so you would be unable to sleep on Christmas Eve listening intently for noises from downstairs as all you could picture was him coming down your chimney and landing in your living room. Maybe you didn’t even have a chimney in your house! Did it even matter? You found a way around that hitch because your belief felt like a reality and you would find and filter information around you that verified that reality. Then one day your older brother or sister shat on your dreams, disproved your belief, and then you adapted your festive expectations accordingly.
There are other more common beliefs that people have disproven every day:
Beliefs are changable and evolve over time just like anything else minute to minute, day to day, month-to-year-to-decade.
Your thought processes adapt naturally as you evaluate and take in or discard information in your environment, quite simply learning, and growing, just through disproving circumstances that make you question the structure you have built and use to navigate in the world. When an accepted belief structure doesn’t serve your needs anymore where once you believed it did, whether consciously or otherwise then bye-bye: it’s “out the old, in with the new”.
Well, if only it were that easy. I mean yeah, maybe it is when it comes to believing that a bob haircut is definitely better than the mid-length, fine, see you at the hairdressers. The problem arises when you’re dealing with the more “heavy weight” beliefs. The stubborn buggers, embedded and interwoven with other beliefs as a well organised and catalogued collection that have you locked down. They create emotions, form your actions, determine your social groups, your work ethic, your overall outlook, so much so that you filter in information that supports these beliefs and discard information that does not.
So many areas of your experience are affected by these beliefs that the natural assumption to make is see them as a permanent fixture of your being. But the real fact is: they are not. No one forces you to think the way you think, you’ve just learned to think in this way due to the unique manner in which your life experiences have played out.
What’s difficult to accept is, that because you are so bound to these beliefs, they are so wound around your true identity that you have come to believe they ARE your identity, when they are not.
Your beliefs are not you.
Yet because they spring up so naturally, it really, unquestioningly, feels like they are.
So when the thought “I am worthless” pops up. That doesn’t mean that you are actually worthless, it means that you have become so married to the belief that you are worthless, that you can see the distinction between You and the belief.
This is a difficult concept to grapple with because many of your beliefs you have held for a long time. Your mind has carefully and meticulously crafted them for reasons that made sense at the time, often as a coping or protective mechanism developed over a lifetime since childhood.
So, you haven’t got a clue who you would be without them.
When you are trying to change a behaviour which has been informed by your beliefs from x to y, it can feel super uncomfortable, unpleasant… ridiculous even, because it feels like a total disassociation with your core being.
Panic may arise, uncertainty about where you are moving to internally, fear of how you will cope, and actually (perhaps surprisingly) a sense of loss. You and your beliefs have been kinda like dysfunctional buddies for a long time, and it’s a difficult and painful process letting go, even though in your heart of hearts you know you know it’s time to go your separate ways.
The ironic thing is that when you can really appreciate that your beliefs are not you, but scripts that you have developed to help you navigate in the world, then you’ve already taken one step toward making changes in your life. Suddenly, when you think things like:
It’s no longer a fact of life. It’s no longer ‘I think therefore I am’. It’s just something that you think, something that you believe right now. And that’s OK, no big deal. It’s just a thought.
That concept in itself is extremely liberating, but it can also suck too.
Whilst you may not yet know the path to shifting your mindset, you are now no longer a person cursed with an inbuilt attribute that stops you achieving “that thing” of your dreams. You are an individual who currently has in place a set of beliefs that are holding you back. When you realise that changing your beliefs is not a swift, single handed self-destruction of the Self, it’s changing your mindset to something more contemporary, to a thought process that better serves your core being, then you find no more real excuses for inaction.
It’s no longer a case of standing helplessly behind invisible bars that hold you on the threshold of your own life, it’s a case of slowly but surely replacing those bars with a door, then opening it up.
You’ll still be you – as no change in beliefs can destroy that – and the world will keep on spinning.
Let’s work through on concrete example. I have a very busy working-professional friend with jaw-dropping looks who spends every spare waking hour scrolling through Tinder.
And Plenty of Fish. And Eharmony. And Match. You name it.
It’s difficult to get rhyme nor reason out of her method of approaching online dating, as long as the guy is ‘fit’ she’ll have a gander and inevitably she’ll end up on a date with him, and usually more.
While on one hand she desperately bemoans her love-life, knowing that she wants to find ‘the one’, she doesn’t understand why she ends up in the situations she does and curses both herself and them for one drama-fuelled ending after another. Contrary to what she might think, that these events just seem to ‘happen’ to her, she is not at the mercy of these circumstances, she is actively formulating and attracting them directly to her because of her beliefs. A cluster of such beliefs include:
Words: “Methodical, screened dating? Where’s the romance in that?”
Beliefs: I believe dating must be spontaneous and serendipitous.
Actions: Waking up on a Thursday morning in a dodgy shared bedsit in Brixton with someone from College that you didn’t like that much at the time but because you saw him for the first time in 10 years on Tinder he must be the one.
Words: “The more I date, the more chance I’ll find the love of my life.”
Beliefs: I believe dating is a numbers game.
Actions: 35 average to horrific dates per month.
Words: “I would rather die than date anyone like my ex.”
Belief: I believe anyone remotely like my ex will make me miserable and that scares the shit out of me.
Action: Oh my god that guy has a long face, I bet he’s a controlling bastard. Swipe left.
Words: [Laughing] “Wait until you hear about the last date I went on, it was so awful.”
Belief: My dating stories make me feel wild and carefree. I’m terrified of feeling like I’m boring, or appearing boring to my friends.
Action: Endless stream of dating disasters that, to be fair, can be hilarious.
Words: I’m a trainwreck.
Belief: I believe that I don’t deserve to find a worthwhile partner.
Action: All of the above actions.
All these thoughts cluster together into an organised belief system that mean that her behaviour will not change and the same situation will repeat itself over and over again. A fundamental assessment, understanding, and deconstruction of the belief system is needed before a new one can be built up and she will start making the right choices in her dating life.
Now a shift in core beliefs cannot happen superficially by just glossing over your existing beliefs with ‘positive thinking’ – back to the rockwall and waterfall analogy, and it won’t happen overnight, but it CAN happen.
Ok so all this is great but let’s say this “changing my beliefs” is the key to changing my circumstances, HOW exactly do I do it?
Maybe you don’t want to hear this but, firstly you need to begin… As in, actually begin.
Nothing will change unless you take action, and action will start with the first step.
Authentic baby-step-action that you understand to take you toward your goals will start to aggravate the foundation of your belief system, bring it more into your awareness. And when you have an awareness of something, you can stand back and look at it. Just curiously.
Let’s go back to my friend. Imagine she’s just got home from another awful date. She suddenly feels anger bubbling up. Maybe she doesn’t even sense that it’s anger, she just comes into the house, shouts at her flatmates for some banal reason, and storms up to her room to gets back on Tinder.
Instead of just totally ignoring what’s going on here, what if she asked herself:
“Hmmm, something’s definitely up with me right now, what is it? What is that feeling?…”
And see what comes up.
“Interesting, I’m feeling anger…. I wonder why I feel anger, why would I be feeling anger right now?… I guess I’m feeling frustrated. Frustration. Where would frustration come from? I suppose this is the 16th crap date I’ve been on this month and that sucks, it’s making me miserable. Why would I feel anger, misery and frustration at this?…”
And so on and so on, asking hereself “why?” with a compassionate curiousity.
Anything could come up at this point, and it might be surprising, say:
– “I suppose it just reminds me that my mother was a single mum and never wanted that for me. I suppose I believe being single means I’m a failure. ”
– “My parents are expecting grandchildren because they keep telling me it will be the high point of their life. I think they believe I’m worthless and selfish until I do so.”
– “I’ll be broke unless I have a partner, being broke in old age will be the death of me.”
Anything, anything at all. Might be all of the above, might be some of the above, or none. It will be totally unique to you as springing organically from your belief system.
Really? Is it an unequivocal, without a shadow of doubt, universal Truth (with a capital T) that if you’re single you are a failure? That your parents will think you are worthless unless you bear children?
Can you hand on heart say there not a single example in the WHOLE WORLD where [X] belief is not the case?
You’ll realise – slowly slowly – that the beliefs that hold you back are not a fact, they are not Who You Are. They can’t be, they can only ever be a subjective thought you hold that feels damn real.
One big caveat to all this: go easy on yourself. All this stuff is not a walk in the park, and it’s a completely self defeating spiral into self-hatred to tell yourself “Come on! Try harder! Look deeper!!!”.
Just start looking at your thoughts, playfully, curiously. Take a peek below and slowly, day by day gain an awareness of, and expose your core belief structure.
You do exist down there. You are not trapped in your “little wooden house”, a path can be cleared for you to step into the Great and Beautiful Unknown.
Something tells me if you’ve made it this far, then you’re are ready.
Be Kind to yourself.